One dark secret. Two troubled souls. The lie that brings them together could tear them apart.
This debut novel is set in small town South Australia, using many of the up and downsides of living in small communities as devices throughout the novel. Protagonist Mina Everton has lived in this town all her life, she knows everybody, and everyone knows her, and her family. Which made life very difficult when her father, a man with a criminal past, abandoned Mina and her desperately ill mother. It's bad enough that the man she adored did a runner like that, but because he swindled a lot of money from a lot of locals, many residents have treated them with some suspicion since. Particularly as the now grown up Everton is trying to set herself up as an antique dealer, at the same time that a series of antique thefts start to build up.
Everton's discovery of her father's much loved watch in a pile of odds and ends in a second-hand / junk shop run by two very sinister characters adds flames to the hint of smoke that's been around for a while - that her father has returned to town and, by connection, she's high on the suspect list for the thefts. Particularly in the mind of the sexy Police Detective with a past of his own, parachuted into town to solve the robbery.
As you can well imagine, come the clash of personalities between Everton and Drummond, there some predictability. He's gorgeous; she's gorgeous and prickly, and of course she hates him on sight. Of course there's complications, of course there is going to be that simmering question - will they / won't they / when? Along the way there's quite a bit of fem-jep and considerable lurking of baddies, who threaten, break into her house, and generally loom around in the background being run by a local bloke who is vicious and madder than bad.
There's obviously been an attempt here to combine something with some sense of darkness - the madness of the central bad guy, and question marks over Everton's own sanity; with the romantic suspense styling of the relationship between the two main characters. Personal preference is probably going to dictate whether or not the balance has been successful, and even whether the attempt is a worthwhile undertaking in the first place. The use of the setting of a small town in which to locate this clash does present some challenges with disbelief, the amount of unnoticed / uncommented on surveillance, for example, didn't quite ring true.
PIECES OF A LIE has a very complicated plot at it's heart. Right from the beginning there is obviously something very odd going on in this small town, and the crimes, possible suspects, and motivations are complicated. The author uses a slow drip feed methodology to let the details of Everton's family background, her working and friend relationships with high-profile town dwellers, and background to the thefts. Elegantly done in some places, because everything is released via this method, there are also points at which it can feel overly manipulative - a bit like playing games with readers.
A debut that shows promise in terms of the sense of place, and the best and worst of life in small towns, PIECES OF A LIE is one for for readers comfortable with a romantic tension device, and happy if their baddies are barking mad into the bargain.